Stories are windows into new worlds. They whisk people away from their everyday lives and connect them with ideas that can revolutionize how they think.
Now more than ever, nonprofits need to share stories of how they’re making the world better. Many of the issues they champion have taken a backseat in people’s minds this year, as our nation’s attention has been captured by one shocking event after another.
But now, we’re in the final weeks of the year, when many people make their annual charitable contributions. There’s still time for your organization to secure important year-end gifts—if you can capture people’s attention and motivate them to support your cause.
How can you break through the noise? Share your best stories—but go beyond just posting them on one platform. Tailor your most compelling narratives for different channels to share them widely. You’ll reach donors where they’re at and maximize your marketing budget.
A number of nonprofits are already doing an incredible job of this—and you can easily follow their lead. Read on to learn how the World Food Program USA, Partners in Health, and The Mission Continues have customized one story for different platforms so they can reach more people with their impactful work.
World Food Program USA (WFP USA), the US affiliate of the 2020 Nobel Prize-winning United Nations World Food Programme, has beautifully adapted the story of Rani—a precocious student in India who receives meals fortified with micronutrients—for their blog, Facebook, and Instagram.
WFP USA has posted a nearly 650-word story of Rani on their blog with a big headline, full-size photos, large text, and bold quotes.
By sharing a long-form version of Rani’s story that includes lots of visuals, WFP USA makes it easy for readers to immerse themselves in her world.
And the blog post’s playful tone draws readers in. It says that WFP USA first met Rani “when she was making waves as a spunky 7-year-old who was ferociously dedicated to breaking down barriers for girls like her.”
They also highlight how kids like Rani refer to the micronutrient powder they get from WFP USA as “magic sprinkles.”
The blog’s vibrant design and vivid language warmly invite readers into Rani’s narrative. It goes a long way in helping readers get to know Rani and consider donating to help kids like her.
WFP USA shared their blog post of Rani’s story on Facebook for Literacy Day on September 8. For the feature image, they used a photo of Rani looking directly at the camera. This eye-catching photo invited viewers to click to take a closer look.
The post copy was short but attention-grabbing, with a couple of distinctive details from Rani’s story—she never misses school and thinks girls can have short hair just like boys.
WFP USA paired this memorable introduction to Rani with a compelling fact that emphasizes the importance of empowering girls like her: School meals increase girls’ school enrollment rates by 12%.
The Facebook post included two hashtags, #LiteracyDay and #AHandUp. Hashtags are not as widely used on Facebook as on other platforms, so many experts recommend using 1-2 per post, as WFP USA has done here.
WFP USA also shared Rani’s story on Instagram. They used the same photo and most of the same text from their Facebook post of Rani. However, instead of including hashtags in the main body as they did on Facebook, WFP USA included several hashtags as a separate comment.
Hashtags are an important tool for increasing Instagram post visibility because many more people follow and search for content using hashtags on Instagram than on Facebook. However, since they can easily clutter post copy, some users include them as a separate comment, as WFP USA has done with Rani’s story.
Bottom Line: WFP USA has adapted Rani’s story for three different platforms to reach more people with their inspiring content. They’ve played up different aspects of the narrative based upon the unique features of each platform, capturing their followers’ attention and creating more donation opportunities.
Partners in Health (PIH) has found creative ways to share the same powerful stories more than once on their platforms. One such example involves the story of Fanta, a woman who managed her at-risk pregnancy and delivered a healthy baby with PIH’s help in Sierra Leone.
By changing the presentation of Fanta’s story each time they shared it on their website and Facebook profile, PIH made the content feel fresh and engaging each time.
PIH’s website has an “Our Impact” page that highlights their positive influence around the world.
The page includes several storytelling graphics. A portrait of Fanta is featured on one of them along with a two-sentence overview of her story and a statistic that demonstrates PIH’s dedication to helping mothers like her around the world.
These graphics tell a multilayered story by sharing individual successes made possible by PIH and noting the organization’s broader achievements in key sectors.
PIH also features Fanta’s story in an article on their website. The 850-word piece is printed in large text framed by lots of whitespace and big photos.
By including bold visuals and plenty of breathing room between design elements, PIH offers web users a compelling and well-balanced aesthetic.
Fanta’s story is not only nice to look at but also easy to navigate, encouraging visitors to read the full narrative and considering donating to PIH.
PIH has shared Fanta’s story on Facebook in a couple of different and creative ways, too.
The first time, they shared it in a post featuring a smiling close-up photo of Fanta with her baby and an encouraging fact: she is one of 30,000 mothers that PIH helped give birth safely last year.
This uplifting post included one hashtag, #EverySinglePerson, highlighting PIH’s belief that every single person deserves health care access.
A year and a half later, PIH featured Fanta’s story on Facebook again, but with a more journalistic tone.
The post featured an unposed, documentary-style photo and copy that reads like a news hook, highlighting the danger of giving birth in Sierra Leone.
Bottom Line: By changing up the tone while staying committed to the facts, PIH has shared Fanta’s story of hardship and hope more than once on their website and Facebook page while still making it feel engaging. By using different visuals and storytelling devices, they have been able to leverage their content to reach many more people.
The Mission Continues thoughtfully shares the stories of former military servicemen and women who volunteer with the organization across its channels, including the story of Dustin Bird, a Marine Corps veteran who finds purpose and strength in partnering with the organization.
Dustin’s story on The Mission Continues’ blog includes large photos that powerfully support the 1,000-word narrative.
Included is an image of Dustin on tour in Iraq, wearing an ambiguous expression and surrounded by a dusty landscape. This hazy image draws attention to the complexity of his experience in the Marine Corps during wartime.
The blog post is written in a first-person perspective. This technique grabs readers’ attention by putting them in Dustin’s shoes. His thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences feel like the readers’ own—the pain in his stomach as he turns in his military gear, his mounting fear and anxiety after returning from war, and the joy he feels now volunteering with The Mission Continues.
Through creative copywriting and compelling visuals, The Mission Continues brings Dustin’s challenging and encouraging story to life on their blog.
Facebook and Instagram
The Mission Continues shared Dustin’s story on Instagram and Facebook to mark September 11 this year. Both posts began with a striking quote from Dustin, a summary of his story, and a call to action to read his full story and find a local service project. They included one hashtag, #UnitedInService, for The Mission Continues’ September campaign.
Both posts also use a photo of Dustin volunteering as the featured image. This is a smart choice because while gripping, the photo from his tour in Iraq on their blog has a more complicated tone. It would be tough to explain its important role in his story in a brief social post that is also meant to encourage people to volunteer.
Instead, the social posts feature an image of him alongside another volunteer. Both of the men are wearing face masks and holding big bags of potatoes as they stand beside boxes of apples. The image hints at the safety precautions, camaraderie, and good feeling of giving back that others can expect to find if they serve with The Mission Continues.
Bottom Line: By adapting Dustin’s gripping narrative for different channels and pairing it with carefully chosen photos, The Mission Continues helps readers experience his story in a powerful way. They feel Dustin’s love for the Marines, the pain caused by service during wartime, and his healing journey with The Mission Continues.
People are looking for a respite from the tumult brought on by 2020. Give them what they’re looking for by sharing stories of how you’re making an impact in the world, one life at a time.
Share uplifting narratives optimized for your channels. Don’t be afraid to tell a multifaceted story on your website if you can offer it in an easy-to-read layout with striking visuals. Remember that large photos have more impact, making readers feel connected to the story.
Less is more on social media. Shorter posts often perform better than longer ones, and it’s good to limit the number of hashtags you use—especially on Facebook. Repurposing the same visuals and copy across Facebook and Instagram can also simplify the process of widely sharing your stories.
As this tough year draws to a close, take time to highlight how your organization has made a positive difference in recent months. You’ll attract more donors to your mission and meet the growing demand for good news.
Let’s offer up a much-needed dose of hope with our stories. After all, a good story is exactly what many people really want and need right now.
Allison Weber, of Allison Weber Consulting, is passionate about helping mission-driven organizations tell better stories. Through working at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and Opportunity International, one of the first nonprofits focused on providing banking services in developing countries, she’s developed the skills to write for a variety of audiences and channels.